Friday, 20 July 2007

Pentasystem: conflict

A couple of posts ago I wrote that I wanted Pentasystem conflict to flow back and forth like Dogs conflict. Dogs does this through "sees" and "raises"; you roll all your dice at the beginning, then spend the results a few at a time in each round of the conflict until someone doesn't have enough to continue, or doing so would be too costly. You can get extra dice by "escalating", changing the kind of conflict it is (for example, going from "just talking" to "physical").

The Pentasystem already has the escalation idea (it's called shifting the ground of the conflict, and it increases the seriousness of the consequences of rolling certain numbers on the dice). What about the "sees" and "raises"? It's at least possible that I can achieve a similar feel, using a recycled idea from City of Masks.

In City of Masks, at one point, I had narration going back and forth like this: The challenger (initiating player, in Pentasystem terms) narrated first, then the responding player, then the loser of the conflict, and finally the winner of the conflict. If the responding player was also the loser, this meant three turns, otherwise four. I like this, and I think I'll keep it. (The current City of Masks procedure is that the two take turns narrating, always heading for the outcome already determined, and the winner gets to decide when to stop, so it can go on for as many turns as the winner wants.)

The other thing I'm thinking about at the moment is, who narrates the outcomes and consequences? There's no GM, so the authority that the GM normally has to declare "what happened" is allocated among the players. Currently, the Pentasystem text says this:

The owner of the defeated character, setting element etc. describes the ways in which the defeat brought about change.

I quite like this; it makes defeat more attractive. There are two things to consider, though: outcomes and consequences. Outcomes are what other games refer to as "stakes" (Dogs says "what's at stake"), except that they're more explicitly mechanical; they're the way in which the world or the situation is affected, iin terms of attributes that are created, changed or removed. The above quote refers to the outcomes. There are also the consequences, which are the things that change about the characters. At the beginning of a conflict, the two players agree on alternative outcomes, which are "in question"; as they use attributes and other resources to engage in the conflict, they declare what attributes are being put "at risk", that is, what may change as a result of having engaged in the conflict. I tend to think that regardless of winning or losing the owner of the character, element or whatever should have the say over what specific changes come about as a result of being in the conflict (because you can change by being in a conflict whether you win or lose it; consequences are based on the number of 1s and 6s you roll in the course of the conflict). This is part of what "ownership" means.

Oh, and that highlights a difference from Dogs fallout. In Dogs, you get fallout if you have had to use a lot of dice to win (basically). You get to choose whether you will have fallout from a conflict or not; you can just not push that hard. Everyone does, of course, because that's what makes the game fun, but you don't ever have to. In the Pentasystem, on the other hand, every time you roll dice you risk consequences. They could be good, they could be bad, they could not appear at all, they could appear in numbers as large as the dice, but there's always risk; that's why you have to nominate what you're putting "at risk". Just choosing to have a conflict risks consequences, and you don't get to choose how great they are. But I think you do get to choose exactly what they are; that's only fair.

I need to write this out in a proper flow which will handily double as a play aid. And do that worked example with the sky-cavalry commander and the talking cat.

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